Paint, Photography, and Nature: A Look at Artists Deb Van Poolen and David Lorenz Winston
In a mountainous landscape, butterflies soar through the foreground, feeding on flowers and spreading their colorful wings. Dozens of different species occupy the canvas, representing Oregon in one of its truest forms.
Deb Van Poolen’s butterfly project is one of education just as much as it is vibrant and peaceful. “There’s been over 120 species of butterflies documented in this area of Oregon,” she says. Not only are butterflies the focal point of the painting, but the base plants where they get supplements are also present. “Viewers will see those plants and absorb the connections of the butterflies and the host plants, which helps folks understand the complexity.”
Van Poolen has been involved in art in a number of ways for several years, both locally and internationally. While in college, she decided law school wasn’t what she wanted, and instead refocused her sights on art.
“After I graduated, I started drawing and painting,” she says. “I’m really inspired by the beauty of all the wild flowers. [In] the summer of ’95 I started selling water color paintings in Ashland at the farmers market.” Living with local artist Harriet Rex Smith and taking classes from Betty LaDuke and Peg Sjogren, her craft and passion from art deepened.
In 1998, she moved to Montana to illustrate a children’s book and teach art classes. “I taught for about three years, right up until the Iraq war happened,” she says. Around that time she stopped pursuing art full time, but still taught classes off and on. She explains, “I really started getting into it the summer of 2013 when I decided to do activist art. I knew after all that anti-war searching and traveling, I really wanted to with my art say something about what I saw happening in the world, and I wanted to support other people doing the same thing.”
This led Van Poolen to attend the trial of Chelsea Manning, who leaked information and video footage of abuse and extreme violence by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m supportive of her and what she did,” she says, “and so then I went to the trial and made courtroom sketches every day. I really felt motivated to use my art in this kind of way, with that I wanted to help publicize her case more.”
After the trial she felt the mountains calling, and returned to Pacific Northwest to continue her landscape art. “I thought I could still try to do work that would help educate people about important issues.”
The butterfly project is currently where she’s using art to educate the public about the importance of butterflies, base plants, and the complex ecosystem they exist in. About the painting, she says, “The background is somewhat impressionistic. The butterflies themselves are somewhat illustrative.”
Overall, Van Poolen strives to represent beauty in her work. “Beauty is actually profound, and getting people to focus on beauty can help people be better people. We get to live in this world of great majesty around us.”
Local photographer David Lorenz Winston captures the majesty of life and nature in ways that have given him wide recognition. Like Van Poolen, in college he switched his studies to art after spending time sketching and through the encouragement of professors. Also having a father who was a part-time photographer and a mother who was an artist, he’s had inspiration and encouragement leading him to his many accomplishments.
“I started out doing arts and craft shows back in the late 70s. A number of my shows were in Philadelphia,” he says. During one of those craft shows, someone from IBM saw his work and eventually bought over 60 prints to show in its new offices, soon finding their way to other offices in Scranton, New York, and more. His photography has also been featured by companies such as Verizon, Hilton, and Johnson & Johnson.
Influenced by photographer Cartier Bresson, painter Andrew Wyeth, and several other artists and people in his life, his is photography captures several textures within the picture, at times making it look like a painting. The wonderful use of lighting, whether staged or natural, highlights the exact subjects the picture needs. From country roads with menacing, dark clouds to a young Amish boy posing with a donkey, Winston teaches the viewer about several different cultures and ways of life in each photograph.
Winston also has been offering services as a mentor and his own critiques to other photographers about five years ago. “I didn’t want to have the responsibility to set up a workshop where five or six people come and having to set up arrangements,” he says. “I enjoy mentoring people. When it comes to mentoring, the most important thing to me is if the person finds it helpful. I don’t try to push my agenda too much.” Having one-on-one sessions are easier and more productive. On his website are several testimonials from other photographers who have had Winston as a mentor before.
“I relate to the world in a very visual way,” Winston says. “I like to see the world as I see it. I’m at home in anything that I don’t have to fill anyone else’s need with.”
Winston has an ongoing photoletter, called “The Winston Eye,” he updates weekly with new photographs. This online portfolio shows the changing yet consistency of work full of quality and stories.
“I like to think my photographs are of relationships or juxtapositions,” he expresses. “I like people to respond to them on an emotional level.” On his website he says, “My imagery is about discovery. It takes me to places I have never been, places that free me from the pressures of a clock driven world, places that heal…I seek to reveal the essence of a moment or place gone unnoticed. I love showing things in new ways, using the elements of surprise, mystery and playfulness, fused with design and movement.”
He uses words like “surprise, design, and mystery” to describe his work. He also places importance on his work being expressive rather than mechanical, which is clearly evident in his own work.